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Monday, August 13
Papis also out at Rahal
By Robin Miller
INDIANAPOLIS -- The silly season in Championship Auto Racing Teams got downright stupid Sunday afternoon at Mid-Ohio as Max Papis punted series point leader Kenny Brack off the track and out of any chance of scoring points.
And what's truly odd about these two teammates tangling for the second time this season is that neither will be with Team Rahal in 2002.
ESPN.com has learned that Brack has already signed with Chip Ganassi for the 2002 CART season and Indianapolis 500, while Papis was out of the Miller Lite ride before his boneheaded move.
Rahal hinted Papis might be replaced as soon as this weekend at Elkhart Lake, but Team Rahal general manager Scott Roembke said Monday there would be no changes for this upcoming race.
Ganassi confirmed a deal Wednesday.
"Talent wins championships and I've hired some talent," Ganassi told The Associated Press on Thursday. "Kenny has shown he can win championships. He's won the IRL championship, he almost won the IROC championship and now he's leading the CART championship."
Driving as well as anyone in American open wheel racing this season, the aggressive 35-year-old Swede is in the final year of his two-year contract with Bobby Rahal, where it's estimated he earned $2 million annually.
Brack, who still clings to a one-point lead over Helio Castroneves after 12 of 20 races, was thought to be looking to double his salary and Ganassi is looking for a proven winner after struggling with two rookies in 2001.
Besides the money and Indy, another enticement for Brack to go to Ganassi could be NASCAR. Ganassi fields a two-car Winston Cup team and Brack has declared he definitely wants to try stock cars in a couple years.
Ganassi began the 2001 season with a pair of rookies, Bruno Junqueira and Nicolas Minassian, as his drivers. He fired Minassian at midseason and replaced him with little-known Memo Gidley.
"Right now Bruno and Memo have to concentrate on the rest of the season, and things will fall into place," Ganassi said. "I don't anticipate making a decision on the second driver until the end of the season."
Ganassi, whose team won an unprecedented four straight CART titles from 1996-99, would not reveal the length of Brack's contract or how much he will earn but said, "For what we're paying him, I expect results."
Rahal admitted Saturday at Mid-Ohio that while Shell, Ford and everyone at Team Rahal loved Brack, he might not be able to keep him.
"It's going to be difficult, I know there is some big money out there being thrown at Kenny and I certainly couldn't blame him for taking it," said the three-time CART champion.
While Toyota and Honda are known to help out CART teams with driver contracts, Ford does not.
As for replacements, former Toyota Atlantic champions Alex Barron and Buddy Rice, currently under contract to Team Rahal, are both thought to be leading candidates for the two open seats.
Rahal recently said he'd like to see some young Americans in the series and all they needed was a break like he received from the late Jim Trueman.
A crowd at Indianapolis
CART owners Ganassi and Derrick Walker were joined at Indy last May by Barry Green and Roger Penske and you can expect Carl Haas, Paul Newman and Rahal to follow suit in 2002.
The Newman-Haas team, based in Chicago and likely losing longtime sponsor Kmart at the end of this season, will be back at the Brickyard with a new sponsor and it's believed to be Eli Lilly & Company.
Located in Indianapolis (that should really make the Indy Racing League happy), Lilly's is one of the nation's largest pharmaceutical companies and a longtime contributor to the city's sports and arts scene.
Haas refused to comment on the subject, but acknowledged he was working on something pretty "big" for 2002 and beyond.
It's believed that Indy had to be included for Lilly's to agree to sponsor the expected 22-race CART schedule in 2002. Cristiano da Matta and Christian Fittipaldi, who finished second in his one and only Indy start in 1995, are currently driving for Newman-Haas.
Rahal, the 1986 Indy 500 winner, confirmed over the weekend he was returning to the Speedway next year.
"We will definitely be at Indianapolis," he said.
The Miller Brewing brass were seen with Rahal and partner David Letterman over the weekend and it's believed they re-upped their association and Indianapolis was thought to be part of the package.
Green, who farmed Michael Andretti out to an IRL team last May, is working on a sponsor so he can bring Dario Franchitti and Paul Tracy to the Speedway. KOOL is Green's main sponsor in CART but cannot advertise under the current tobacco legislation.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Send this story to a friend | Most sent stories